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Op-ed Placement

Biden’s School ‘Reopening’ Blueprint Is An Unscientific Mess

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02/23/2021
Originally Published in The Daily Caller on 2/23/21.

Parents across America are rightfully expressing their outrage at the Biden’s administration’s latest guidance regarding school reopenings. The president’s unrealistic list of requirements for sending students back to the classroom were heavily influenced by teachers unions rather than science, even as studies have established that schools aren’t “super-spreaders” of COVID-19.

While President Biden insisted on the campaign trail that he would ensure school buildings around the nation were quickly opened upon his entry into the White House, this is proving to be another empty promise. Biden has shamefully given false hope to the millions of parents counting on his declaration to reopen schools in his first 100 days, most of them concentrated in blue states where citizens have languished under draconian lockdowns.

It’s clear that Biden is ignoring the wishes of parents who want to see their children return to the classroom. Millions of Americans have rightfully demanded that schools open five days a week for in-person learning, and for school districts to offer a high quality, at-home learning option for parents who don’t yet feel it’s safe for their children to return. President Biden’s latest plan — which would open just half of schools for one day a week by the end of April — is a slap in the face for parents who have counted on the White House to get their kids safely back to the classroom.

Sadly, President Biden’s eagerness to play politics with the education of American children doesn’t stop there. The newest demand of teachers unions, which was included in the White House’s school “reopening” plan, mandates six-foot spacing between student desks. The Biden administration’s desire to dictate unscientific school reopening requirements to states is troubling, especially considering that many state and local governments have already opened school buildings safely without federal intervention.

Even more dangerous is the potential for retribution from the White House, directed at school districts that don’t want to be crushed under the thumb of federal mandates. It is possible that President Biden will place contingencies on additional education funding from the CARES Act, mandating that schools follow the nonsensical guidelines issued by his administration if they wish to receive federal assistance.

If the Biden White House decides to do this, the president would not only ensure that closed schools remain shut; but that many schools which have reopened safely would be unable to remain open.

It is clear that Biden’s administration and their supporters in the teachers unions “aren’t letting a good crisis go to waste,” in the words of Churchill. After Biden assailed former president Trump for allegedly “putting politics over science,” his administration forced the CDC to parrot the talking points of his allies in the teachers unions. While school board members and state legislatures have formerly resisted calls for smaller class sizes and other modifications due to the financial impracticality of making these happen, they may now be forced to enact such changes if they want to keep receiving federal support.

If schools are forced to adopt Biden’s proposed measures even as COVID-19 case numbers plummet and the vaccine becomes more widely available, when will schools ever be able to return to normal?

Experts have insisted for months that three feet between desks is ample spacing for kids, and anything more would create the need to drastically reduce in-person attendance. In urban areas with high student populations, it is unlikely that schools will be able to comply with the six-foot spacing mandate; meaning that parents should expect their children to remain out of school for at least the remainder of the school year. This is unsustainable.

Meanwhile, school districts know that the status quo is a disaster, which is why many are refusing to assess online learners; because they know that these students have fallen far behind their peers who are learning in person. It’s crucial that the gap between online and in-person learners be quantified, so that politicians who mandated school closures can be held accountable for the disparity they created.

As the Biden administration politicizes school reopenings, parents are waking up to the fact that their children have become political pawns for the White House and teachers unions. For the sake of our kids, American parents everywhere must demand that schools reopen for in-person instruction.

*Laura Zorc is FreedomWorks’ director of education reform. *